Color & Pop: African Fabric Delight

Color. Pop. Festive. These words are commonly used to describe ?The African Fabric? that locals in-country wear with ease. The use of these fabrics have evolved over the years, and have been stylishly incorporated as part of the daily wear in certain arenas,? from the local market to the runway. We drill down on some of the most popular fabrics used to make clothes that have started to become a??new norm?.

 

Adire Also called tie and dye,the earliest fabric of this type that was produced were simple tied designs on cotton cloth with Indigo, which was?handspun?and?woven?locally.Dyeing with indigo is a centuries-old West African tradition which was mainly carried out by the Yoruba women of Nigeria and the Mandinka tribe of Mali. By the 20th century, Adire production rose to become a booming industry, due to the influx of imported European textiles. While Adire has lost a lot of its earlier popularity, the art of Adire design is still studied and practiced by many.

Adire
Image: Jide Alakija

 

A?? oke [ah-shaw-okay]?The traditional wear of the Yoruba?s from southwest Nigeria,the name can be translated to mean ?cloth from the interior? in reference to the area where this particular fabric is made. The fabric is worn to note special occasions particularly festivals, weddings, engagements, naming ceremonies and other monumental occasions.

Asooke
Image: Pinterest

 

Adinkra?The fabric is?a hand-printed cloth?developed by the Ashanti people of Ghana. Adinkra cloth is typically stamped and patterned with traditional Ashanti symbols, each with its own meaning. The fabric is decorated and designed using a black dye, Adinkera Aduru, which is made of bark. Using the dye, lines are drawn on the cloth to divide it into squares. Next, symbols are carved into calabash gourds, which are the pressed into the dye, and then stamped onto the fabric. Of particular significance is the role the fabric plays in storytelling. Through the years, people have decorated their fabric to tell a story or to express their thoughts or feelings.

Adinkra
Image: It’s African inspired

 

Kente The Kente is a colorful fabric that expresses all that is Ghanaian. The Kente cloth has a foundation in royalty as it was originally worn by the kings, queens and highly respectable people in society, and was used as gifts for occasions such as weddings and religious ceremonies. Each color has a symbolic meaning–for example, blue is associated with peace, love and harmony. Red on the other hand, means shedding of blood, death, and warning.

Kentedress
Image: Asakeoge

 

B?g?lanfini?While it is more widely known as Mudcloth, B?g?lanfini?holds a distinctive place in the traditional fabric (no pun intended) of the Malian culture. Made by the Bambara people of Mali, the fabric and design has been globally marketed as an expression of cultural identity, global?fashion (thanks to Chris Seydou) and as fine art.

Bogolanfini
Image: Pinterest

 

Shweshwe ?This 100% African product traces its roots back to the 19th century, when German and Swiss settlers in South Africa who imported the blaudruck?(“blue print”) fabric for their clothing helped ingrain it in South African culture. Shweshwe is traditionally used to make dresses, skirts, aprons and wraparound clothing. It is traditionally worn by newly married Xhosa?women, known as?makoti, and married?Sotho?women. There continues to be a growing?use of the fabric in contemporary fashion, as seen on the runway and in many fashion outlets around the world.

Shweshwe
Image: Makhosazane

 

Dutch Wax Prints Popularly known as Ankara, these prints are typically African inspired, and are probably the most popular in terms of use. However, there is one little caveat. As the name suggests, Ankara is actually of European origin and was initially manufactured by the Dutch for the Indonesian textile market, but was later reintroduced to modern day Ghana. It?has since grown in popularity, and is revered as a status symbol. Popular site Vlisco, established in 1846, produces this popular brand of cloth, inspired by fashion trends in West and Central Africa.

vlisco
Image: Cherelle/American Girl in Paris